When developing a safety plan or conducting a risk assessment, there are a number of tools and resources to help you ensure victim survivors with disability can access support safely.
Safety planning that considers disability
Some of the strategies in a typical safety plan may not be feasible for a victim survivor with disability, who may depend heavily on their perpetrator to carry out everyday tasks. For example, a victim survivor who uses a wheelchair might face physical barriers when trying to escape an abusive home. Someone who is deaf or hearing impaired may face communication barriers within the support services they try to access. Where the perpetrator is also the victim survivor’s carer, services may need to seek consent from the victim survivor to work collaboratively with other organisations to facilitate safety planning.
The best way to develop a suitable safety plan is to work closely with the victim survivor and assist them to make informed decisions.
Consider contacts (for example, a personal assistant, friend or disability advocate) the victim survivor wants to include in their safety plan, in addition to practical ways they successfully navigate existing barriers.
For further safety planning support see:
- 1800RESPECT’s Disability Support Toolkit and safety planning resource.
- The Ask Someone website, which includes information on safety plans.
- The WWILD Easy Read resources including ‘You Deserve to be Safe: A Simple English Booklet about Domestic and Family Violence’ to help victim survivors navigate their own safety options.
Adopting a disability and NDIS lens using MARAM
Safe and Equal has developed a tool to help workers in specialist family violence services gather family violence risk and safety information to support victim survivors navigate the NDIS. It includes questions and responses to complement the MARAM comprehensive safety planning and risk management tool and elicit more detail about the victim survivor and their unique risk and protective factors, needs and goals. The tool also highlights areas where family violence and sexual assault workers can provide supports. If you’d like a copy of this tool, email email@example.com.
Meeting disability needs in crisis
One of the barriers to safety for victim survivors with disability highlighted in the Royal Commission into Family Violence is the fear of losing access to vital daily supports or equipment. For example, a victim survivor may rely on support from someone who is perpetrating violence and therefore may not have safe access to vital disability aids or equipment. Supporting the victim survivor to access supports or equipment in the short-term is an important part of a family violence response.
You can access funds from several programs in the family violence sector to meet support needs while waiting for medium or long-term support.
- The Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative (DFVCRI) at Safe Steps provides brokerage for women and children with a disability who are experiencing family violence to access the services and supports they need to stay safe, quickly.
- Flexible Support Packages provide victim survivors of family violence with individual funding to assist them to access support, move out of a crisis, stabilise and improve their safety. Victim survivors with disability can access funding to cover the additional costs of access to safety.
- Family Violence Crisis Brokerage aims to increase the safety and wellbeing of victim survivors of family violence by providing immediate and flexible funding for person-centred support during a crisis and in response to COVID-19. Victim survivors with disability can access funding to cover the additional costs of access to safety.
Workers may need to explore local providers of disability aids, equipment or support workers/carers to get quotes and purchase supports or equipment with funds sourced through these programs. The capacity of local disability service providers to deliver services at short notice is variable. As a service, it is recommended workers explore local disability support and equipment providers and foster collaborative relationships at a local level.
What family violence and sexual assault workers can do
Workers should provide the victim survivor with accessible information about the NDIS, eligibility and options so they can make an informed decision. Here are some useful resources about the NDIS that are designed for potential NDIS participants (including Easy English versions for people with cognitive disability):
- Women with Disabilities Victoria’s factsheet for women with disabilities on the NDIS explains the NDIS system with a gender lens and includes information of relevance to safety and family violence.
- NDIS’ series of booklets (including Easy English versions) explain how the NDIS works.
- NDIA’s ‘Getting started with the NDIS’ booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants (including an Easy English version).
- If the victim survivor is unsure if they have an NDIS plan, they will need to contact the NDIS National Contact Centre and find out if they are on the system and request access to their plan.
- If the victim survivor wants to apply for NDIS supports, family violence and sexual assault workers can assist with the process to ensure the victim survivor has appropriate, safe support if needed. The Summer Foundation’s step-by-step guide to completing the Access Request Form is a useful resource.
- During the access process, family violence and sexual assault workers can support victim survivors with referrals to appropriate health professionals if they are not already linked in with them. They can advocate with these health professionals to provide appropriate evidence of disability and consider family violence-related disability needs. For example, advocating for health professionals to write quality reports (see the Summer Foundation resource ‘Getting the language right’).
- Family violence and sexual assault workers can aid urgent requests by writing support letters to accompany access requests and requests for unscheduled plan reviews. We have developed a tool to help specialist family violence services write support letters. For a copy of the tool, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Discuss with the victim survivor a referral for access support to the Mental Health NDIS Access Support program (for people with psychosocial disability) or the NDIS Community Connectors Program (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and carers of people with disability). If a referral is made, continue to work with the victim survivor and the other agencies to ensure family violence risk and safety needs are met.
- Contact the Safe Steps disability team with questions about accessing the DFVCRI brokerage. They also offer secondary consultation on disability and family violence to workers.
- Contact your local specialist family violence provider with questions about accessing Flexible Support Packages or the COVID-19 Family Violence Crisis Brokerage.
- Find local providers to arrange the purchase of equipment or aids.
The availability of affordable, accessible housing is a considerable barrier for victim survivors with disability escaping violence.
For some people with disability, moving into emergency accommodation or relocating permanently can be scary or traumatic. Relocating may compromise a victim survivor’s confidence or independence, particularly if they have to leave behind valuable disability adaptations and equipment, along with the familiarity and comfort of their own home.
For these reasons, it’s important to help victim survivors with disability explore the option of remaining in their home and having the perpetrator excluded.
If they need to relocate as part of the safety plan (for example to go into temporary crisis accommodation) support the victim survivor to identify any additional supports they may require while navigating their changed circumstances during crisis.
Going to court
An intervention order may help a victim survivor with disability increase their safety.
You can work with victim survivors so they know what to expect and ensure necessary accessibility supports are in place before going to court. For example:
- If they have an intellectual or cognitive disability, help them understand that the Magistrate will expect them to answer questions for themselves. Tell them what sort of questions will be asked.
- If they have a physical disability, make them aware of any issues they may experience while accessing the court building.
- If your client is deaf or hearing impaired, ensure they are supported in their right to engage an Auslan interpreter.
- If your client uses non-verbal communication, support them to have their communication method recognised by the court.